Unlike social media platforms that loosely revolve around connecting with people you already know, Tiktok and Youtube can introduce their users to new communities based on personal interests. As an English major, frequent reader, and aspiring member of the publishing industry, it is no surprise that the social media rabbit hole I quickly fell down revolved around books. Although this may seem ironic because books are sometimes viewed as the antithesis of social media, Tiktok and Youtube can serve as productive ways to interact with other readers and discuss books.
During the summer of 2020, when I had nothing to do but endlessly scroll through social media and read books, I stumbled (or the algorithm pushed me) into Tiktok’s community of readers, also known as Booktok. Suddenly my passion for reading was something that made me feel connected to random people on the internet in a way that felt productive rather than mind-numbing. Now I had infinite stores of book recommendations at my fingertips and could get a glimpse into other people’s reactions to books I also read.
Although there are likely numerous niche groups within Booktok, I can only speak to the content I was constantly confronted with. Many of the TikToks I saw were for books I already read and loved, such as books by the authors Sally Rooney, Madeline Miller, and Taylor Jenkins Reid. Not only would I see TikToks about how incredible these authors are, which I agree with since I constantly recommend them, but I also saw more satirical videos about how liking those authors is basic and unoriginal. To an extent, perhaps I am guilty of liking popular books but invalidating someone’s taste or the hard work of those authors points to the less productive side of utilizing social media in this way. On the other hand, the popularity of these books, all by white women, and others triggered more people to create content to help fill the gaps in readers’ bookshelves. More and more people began posting about books with different perspectives, recommending authors of color or with intersectional identities, and challenging their fellow readers to push themselves outside of their literary comfort zone.
While I am far from a champion of social media and oftentimes believe that the cons outweigh the pros, I do want to highlight the importance of these communities and the generative power they can have. For example, one of my favorite genres to read for fun is fantasy, but a lot of the most popular books in this genre are by problematic authors like Sarah J Maas, JK Rowling, or Cassandra Claire, who achieve impressive world-building in their novels yet fail to include anyone but straight, white characters. Because of Booktok, I was able to discover books in the genre that break away from that, like one of my favorite books, Priory of the Orange Tree. Although this 800+ page book might be daunting to some, it centers on diverse characters and queer relationships in addition to having an incredibly complex and interesting storyline. Over time, books like The Poppy War, Ember in the Ashes, and We Hunt the Flame, became more popular and spoken about on these platforms as people recognized the discrimination present within this genre (and others) and wanted to break away from that.
In addition to Booktok, Booktube has risen to popularity in recent years. Just as there are influencers for fashion or exercise, there are book influencers that gain a following for their stellar recommendations and intriguing discussion of books. My two favorites are Jack Edwards and Carley Thorne, who I like because I relate to their educational background in literature and love their taste. My favorite types of videos they both make are celebrity spotlights in which they pick a celebrity (like Harry Styles, Lorde, Yara Shahidi, etc.), read their favorite books, and talk about what that person’s book preference might suggest about them. These are extremely fun to watch and often produce a lot of interesting recommendations. While these specific influencers may be more catered towards my specific interests, there is something out there for everyone in terms of social media book communities. Whether you are a seasoned reader who has run through their TBR list or are looking to try your first read-for-pleasure novel, I encourage you to utilize these platforms to discover books that can expand your mind and leave you feeling inspired or entertained.
Feature Image: Elizabeth Donchey